Landfill equation more than just math

by Brian Clarey

The issue of Greensboro’s White Street Landfill endures. We have endorsed reopening the landfill on financial grounds — the city currently spends $41 per ton to ship our municipal solid waste to a landfill in Montgomery County, and the savings in keeping our garbage solutions in-house are considerable.

Since then, the landfill has emerged as an issue every few weeks as the city grapples with a big, long-term decision that affects every last one of us.

It is our garbage, is it not, that we need to deal with — our fast-food wrappers and dirty diapers, our cigarette butts and plastic shrink-wrap and stacks of old magazines. The people of Greensboro create this mountain of rubbish — as much as 8 tons per day, more around holiday time — that must be trucked to the deep country for tipping.

Better to think of the city’s garbage problem as inevitable math, and on strictly mathematical terms there is no question that Greensboro could enjoy significant financial savings by reopening the facility on White Street to municipal solid waste.

There has been significant push-back to the proposal to reopen White Street — from neighborhood groups, churches and civic associations, a lawsuit from the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, which alleged that reopening the landfill disproportionately affects minorities and low-income communities.

Of that there is no question: District 2, the landfill’s district, has plenty of both. What matters is if the action violates Title 6 of the Civil Rights Act. If so, payout for the legal action becomes part of the garbage equation, the price of doing business on White Street.

But there is a lot more to consider than just numbers, more than math.

One of the reasons the landfill closed was because people didn’t want to live near everybody else’s garbage; for others, the image of a Southern town that still threw all its garbage into black neighborhoods didn’t sit well. More pragmatic souls might point out that if we’re serious about building an urban center, it might not be wise to keep dumping our trash just four miles away for a short-term solution to a permanent problem.

Opening the White Street Landfill is a short-term proposition: As it exists, the facility has perhaps another decade left in it unless more land and buffer are added — or someone figures out how to zap garbage into kilowatts.

So for 10 years we will dump our garbage onto some of our city’s most disenfranchised communities for a short buck, and then we’ll have to figure something else out anyway.

In the end, that’s what doesn’t sit right. We stand opposed to reopening the White Street Landfill to municipal solid waste, and encourage a regional solution to our shameful pile of garbage.

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